Skip to main content
7:30 am
today's show is one i wanted to do for some time now. it's about a little boy named you sechlt he's become a friend of mine over the past few years. that's him playing back there. in a few minute use're going to get a chance to meet him. his story begins in iraq. his storj is one you've never heard. it struck me with a cord as a father and a doctor. masked men came to his home one day, doused him with care seen and literally set him on fire. it's hard to imagine something like that could happen to him in this world today but it did. this story is about strength and healing, courage. it's about a boy who rose up from the ashes. it's a story we're going to tell you about today. let's start from the beginning. yusuf was an outgoing 4-year-old boy who loved to ride his bicycle.
7:31 am
as 2006 drew to a close, yusuf was starting kinder garden and he was eager to learn. >> when his mom asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said he wanted to be a doctor. his parents said they hope he will go farther than they did in life. they said it themselves. we hope our son goes places farther than we could dream of. >> yusuf's parents didn't travel far. his mother and father kept him close to home, in hopes of keeping him safe. on january 15th, on monday, yusuf was just outside the front door eating chips and playing. his father was at work. his mother was inside their small home.
7:32 am
>> yusuf's father took yusuf here to the hospital. doctors at the baghdad hospital scraped the dead skin from his face with no anesthetic, an incredibly painful process. >> when yusuf returned home after 20 days, he was a different child, and not just because of the scarring across much of his young face.
7:33 am
months after the attack, yusuf stood in the spot where he was burned. he said three masked men poured gasoline on him and then set him on fire. i was burning, yusuf says. >> yusuf now spent his days inside his baghdad home, playing computer games. yusuf told his mother zainid his friends shunned him.
7:34 am
>> once outgoing, energetic, and happy, yusuf was now withdrawn, sul en, angry. zained describes other ways the old yusuf was gone. len, angry. zained describes other ways the old yusuf was gone. >> coming up, you receive says parents look for help close to home and end up fining it all over the world through generosity of strangers. stay with us. an extra strength pain reliever with alertness aid to fight fatigue. so get up and get goin'! with new bayer am. the morning pain reliever.
7:35 am
7:36 am
we are back with a special edition of sgmd, devoting our story to a little rocky boy named yousef. he was porably burned by these masked gunmen in baghdad. it's hard to understand. yousef's father did what any dad
7:37 am
or i would try to do, get him help. but the insurgency was getting stronger in baghdad and he didn't think he could get the type of medical care yousef needed. he kept banging his head against the wall, hitting deadends, but then the generosity started. they donated money to yousef. their money took them from baghdad to los angeles to a leading burn surgeon. >> his father had been pounding the pavement in baghdad for about nearly eight months. he happened to be in a store where he heard about cnn, was told that perhaps cnn could help. >> just going to the cnn bureau in baghdad, yousef's father was risking his life. yousef's father returned to the cnm bureau four times before our producer, mohammed, had time to see him. for his safety, we aren't showing his face either. >> he showed me the first picture of yousef before the
7:38 am
incident, and that smile. i couldn't help myself but to cry. i said, oh, my god. this is your son before the incident. i run with this picture to arwa, and arwa also was like in the middle of something busy. i said, arwa, leave everything. look to this picture. >> and for us, that was it. we were going to do the story, if only for the sole reason of trying to get this kid help. i was actually really nervous the day before the story went out on tv and then we did a web version of it. i sensed -- i thought there would be some sort of a reaction, but i didn't know if it would be enough to actually get the family help. i remember the e-mail responses beginning to come to the dot-com version and feeling a bit of relief but still apprehensive, and all of a sudden we were flooded. was flooded, my inbox
7:39 am
was flooded. it was completely and totally overwhelming. >> heartfelt responses came in from all over the world. >> life is too short to be wasted in hatred and revenge. >> yousef is a story of hope, inspiration and courage to all those people out there. >> heart warming and hopeful story amidst the never-evening coverage of the war on terror. >> yousef has touched and changed my life forever. thank you, cnn, for the most moving story ever aired. >> offers came from a number of charities, and yousef's parents chose the children's burn foundation to help their son. >> this is the purpose of the children's burn foundation, is to help children like yousef, whether locally, nationally, or internationally, wherever they may live. so we immediately called cnn to
7:40 am
let them know we wanted to help. >> put a link to its charity on the "impact your world" web page, and the donations for yousef poured in. >> impact your world is a website on that was created for stories like this so that people who read a story and want to act and to help an individual or just a charity in general, they can go to\impact and make a difference. >> in no time the charity received more than 13,000 donations, more than $300,000, all for yousef. a doctor also stepped up. dr. peter grossman in
7:41 am
california. >> sometimes a story hits you, a situation that gets you right in the heart. you say, you know what? i want to do something. i wanted to reach out. >> a special visa for youssif and his family was the last piece of the puzzle. >> the people in baghdad who were my last line of direct contact were absolutely amazing. one they got all the paperwork, youssif and his family had their travel documents within two days, and that is unheard of in the past. it was the most amazing thing to be able to call youssif's father a finally when everything fell into place and say to him, your son is going to america and he's going to get help. >> the family is finally en route to the united states. a lot of hope there, a new beginning. but there was so much more left to do for youssif. when we come back, from baghdad to a burn center. stay with us.
7:42 am
7:43 am
7:44 am
you know, little youssif suffered so much, but i can tell you he taught us something as well. through the nonstop coverage of the war and terror, he taught us something about hope and his spirit, and you, the cnn viewer and user really made the next phase of his life possible. youssif's father called it a journey from death to life. his mother called it a dream. >> we'd like to welcome you to los angeles. >> from baghdad to los angeles, a 24-hour trip, a world away, and a new beginning for youssif and his family. far from iraq's violent and uncertain streets.
7:45 am
cnn correspondent dar roy damon brought youssif's polite to the world's attention. she served for a time as their translator. for youssif and their family, every day in their new home seemed extraordinary. >> she's seen a toaster in cartoons before but not real life. >> there were other slices of americana, previously seen only in the movies. manicured lawns, a swimming pool, a playground. another first, youssif's first doctor's visit with dr. peter grossman. >> he's not happy with me. this is not unusual. >> dr. grossman donated his services and planned to operate on youssif six times or more in the months ahead, trying to repair a face savagely burned when masked men in baghdad doused youssif with gasoline and
7:46 am
set him on fire. youssif was a reluctant patient, perhaps because of the incredibly painful treatment he received in iraq. >> let him know i promise i'm not going to hurt him. if he doesn't mind, i'm going to take a tape measure so i can see how big that scar is. 16 f centimeters. can he close his eyes really, really tight? excellent. youssif, i need you to open your mouth for me. >> what was it like when you first met youssif? >> when i first saw youssif, i saw a face that i had seen several times before, a young child, very scared, a glimmer of hope that something could be done, but not quite trusting. i knew from that moment that my work was cut out for me, not just from a surgical standpoint,
7:47 am
but on a human level. how could i get this child to trust me. and right now we're in the process of that. >> gross man scheduled youssif's first and most important operation for eight days later. on a trip to the beach, members of a nearby church wants to help with spiritual healing. the church group recognized youssif from news stories and asked if they could say a prayer for the boy and his family. >> and they're going to need strength and they're going to need patience. >> youssif's mother's hope for her son was more down to earth. she said she just wanted her son's smile back. and as youssif played by the water, the first time the family had played near the ocean, somedayed in said she saw a glimmer of the old youssif. >> if you asked their parents, that's what they wanted, their son back, the old youssif. coming up, the doctor's going to
7:48 am
scrub in. and minutes from now you're going to see what youssif looks like three years later.
7:49 am
7:50 am
welcome back to the show. yusuf's parents would bring him to the united states for treatment. their living expenses, medical expenses, all of it paid for by the kindness of strangers. but the real question, how would yusuf do? we check in. >> reporter: dr. grossman made a final visit with you ynsiff ands family. accompanying him was his father, dr. richard grossman who would also be taking part in the surgery and who inspired his son to follow in his footsteps.
7:51 am
>> my dad started the center in 1969. and just an incredible role model is someone who gives of themselves and the rewards that you can get. from giving. i'm very lucky i have a nice job and i love what i do. but there's no amount of money that can replace that smile on someone's face and that thanks that they give you. and when i was a kid, i used to see them doing that to my dad. and i said, i want that. >> i'll take good care of him. like he's my own boy. okay? >> reporter: dr. grossman let me scrub in to observe. >> we'd like to -- >> reporter: he showed me how he hopes to undo much of what an unspeakably cruel act has done to this 5-year-old boy. he planned to remove scar tissue
7:52 am
from around youssif's nose and insert tissue expanders in his cheek and neck. over time, dr. grossman hoped to stretch the healthy skin so it could replace the heavy scars. on youssif's chin, jaw line, and next to his ear. >> now it's time to operate. >> okay. >> reporter: 3 1/2 hours after it began, the operation was over. >> how did things go? >> i was pretty pleased how things went today. we were able to accomplish all that we set our mind to, and everything went without hitch. and our first stage operation, i
7:53 am
was pretty happy. hopefully it'll continue along this course. >> reporter: in fact, youssif had 15 operations. now three years later, what does he look like? you're about to meet him. uh, what? sir, it's a simple question, do you want heartburn pain now or later? [ male announcer ] these heartburn medicines make you choose between hurting now, or later. pepcid® complete doesn't. it starts to neutralize acid in seconds and keeps it under control all day or all night. sometimes you gotta make compromises, man. [ male announcer ] no you don't, man. pepcid® complete works now and works later. t adwiwiout food al t
7:54 am
she starts at dawn and so does her back that's two pills foa four hour drive. the drive is done. so it's a day of games and two more pills. the games are over, her pain is back, that's two more pills. and when she's finally home, but hang on, just two aleve can keep back pain away all day with fewer pills than tylenol. this is rachel, who chose aleve and two pills for a day free of pain. ♪ and get the all day pain relief of aleve in liquid gels. ♪
7:55 am
their son would finally get the medical care that he needed. and youssif used to tell me he wanted to go back to baghdad to play with his friends and cousins once his face was fixed as he put it. but the fears about iraq grew over time. and three years later, they're still right here in los angeles. so i literally have not seen youssif three years now, 2 1/2 years. let's take a look at how he's doing.
7:56 am
hey, how you doing? good to see you. how you doing? >> good. >> can we come in and see your house? let's take a look. so this is your place? you want to introduce me to everybody? okay. come on. >> this is my mom. >> yeah. >> and that's my dad, and that's my sister. >> and youssif has a new baby brother, mustaffa, he's 2 months old. >> how was school? what did you learn? >> i learned times and a little division. >> what's six times two? >> 12. >> all right. >> reporter: when i talked to youssif, it was amazing to me what a typical 8-year-old boy he'd become. a third grader with friends who likes videos, pizza, spongebob.
7:57 am
i wondered if youssif was aware of how far he'd come. i asked if he wanted to look at pictures of his progress. he said he would. >> what can you tell me? >> i used to have this. >> used to have this. >> and this, and this was red. >> this was all red in here. what else? >> then my ear, i couldn't see that. >> you talking about over here? >> yeah. >> i heard you had over 12 surgeries. >> 15. >> was that scary for you? >> only the first one and the second one. >> after that you got used to it? do you want them to do anything else? >> make them fix this ear. >> your ear?
7:58 am
>> youssif has a pretty good understanding for a young boy as to what he's gone through and how he is and will always be somewhat different than other children because of the disfigurement that he has from his burn injuries. but he's also been able to take with him a sense of accomplishment. look what i've gone through. and i can survive. >> reporter: the united states government has granted youssif and his familyasylum, that means they can stay in the united states. >> i'm getting used to my kids being here. they speak english more than arabic. it's not safe to go there. >> as we're shooting this interview, we're not showing your face.
7:59 am
after all these years, you're still worried about that. >> yeah. i still have family in iraq. i don't want anyone to get hurt. >> you worry if they see your face on tv, there might be some violence against your family? >> yeah. >> why would somebody do that? >> i have no idea why. like until now they have done so many things, killing people. it's so many things. >> reporter: so many things. like deliberately burning an innocent child. youssif hasn't let what happened to him diminish his spirit or his dreams. >> last time we got together you said you wanted to be a doctor some day. you remember that? you still want to be a doctor? >> yeah. >> why do you want to be a doctor? >> so i can help people. >> that's great. are you liking it here in america? >> yeah.

Sanjay Gupta MD
CNN September 18, 2010 7:30am-8:00am EDT

Series/Special. Dr. Gupta discusses medical issues.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Yusuf 13, Yousef 12, Cnn 5, Dr. Grossman 4, Los Angeles 4, Us 3, Iraq 3, United States 3, Baghdad 3, Arwa 2, America 2, Adwiwiout Food Al 1, Expanders 1, Youssif 1, Spongebob 1, Somedayed 1, New Bayer Am 1, Len 1, Om 1, Dr. Richard Grossman 1
Network CNN
Duration 00:30:00
Scanned in Annapolis, MD, USA
Source Comcast Cable
Tuner Port 1234
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec mp2
Pixel width 720
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color

disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 9/18/2010